My first year as a medical student


Doctor to-be: Ching has grown accustomed to the pace in medical school after initially being overwhelmed with the workload.

LAST year, I literally jumped for joy upon receiving an offer letter to study in Universiti Malaya, the top medical school in Malaysia. I was thrilled that I was a step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a doctor.

Filled with hope, I began my journey as a medical student and was soon surprised by several mismatches between my expectations and reality.

But before I illustrate them, allow me to share my thoughts on the contract doctor issue, which has drawn much attention lately.

It is undeniable that the issue is worrying for medical students like me.

Striving hard towards a future where we have to contend with prospects faced by contract medical officers such as lower salaries, lesser leave days, no pension and worst of all, no career advancement is not at all comforting.

The only hope the medical fraternity has now is to make our voices heard and fight for a change, for us and for the country we serve.

That said, here’s a peek into my medical school experience thus far.

Expectation 1: Acing examinations

I am well aware that I am not bestowed with immense wisdom, but I never had to worry about doing well in my studies.

Things are different in medical school. With anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, molecular medicine, and many other topics to learn, there’s little time for me to digest everything before moving on to my next class.

The absence of brain-teasing subjects like mathematics and physics adds to the challenge as most of my mental capacity is solely used to absorb never-ending medical facts.

The workload was overwhelming initially, even for a few top scorers I know of.

Expectation 2: Struggling alone

The reality is far from what I expected. Like me, my coursemates feel stressed when we have deadlines to meet and examinations to study for, and everyone is absolutely happy to have a friend around.

Medical school is never a single-player game where you have to shoulder every burden on your own. Instead, it is a multiplayer journey where we help each other along the way.

Expectation 3: Constant busyness

This appeared to be the situation during my first few months in medical school. I was overwhelmed with my studies to the point where I only had five hours of sleep every night.

But as time passed, I grew accustomed to the pace by introducing several changes to my routine which included setting timetables for myself.

I have also been able to engage in a myriad of non-scholastic activities, such as producing videos and posters to advocate for good causes, and writing articles such as this.

In short, there is ample downtime, provided that we practise time management and live each day productively.

Expectation 4: Tackling all kinds of clinical situations

Confidently strolling down the hospital hallway in a white coat with a stethoscope over my neck and some charts in my hands?

That scenario has totally been shattered in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic as my coursemates and I can only attend online lectures from our homes.

It is most disheartening as we do not get to interact with patients, carry out experiments, or have each other by our sides to provide support and motivation. But it is a reality we have to bear with for now.

As illustrated above, my experience as a medical student has turned out somewhat differently from what I initially anticipated. Despite that, I am grateful for my journey thus far. — By CHING ZI XUAN, 20, Universiti Malaya (who is also a participant of The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme)

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